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Last Updated on September 9, 2019

How to Become an Entrepreneur (Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur)

How to Become an Entrepreneur (Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur)

The dream of entrepreneurship is really the American Dream. It’s all about being your own boss, having financial security and creating something from nothing through hard work, dedication and skill. It’s the rare person who hasn’t pondered the possibilities.

I certainly did, and from a young age. Granted that I come from a long line of entrepreneurial people, my great grandfather was a cattle trader and wildcatter. My grandfather and father were in the oil and gas industry and I have been involved in everything from oil & gas to manufacturing, real estate and skin care. In short, I have been a serial entrepreneur for the past 35 years. And in that time, I have both made and lost millions of dollars, managed hundreds of employees, suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress and other health issues.

I have learned lessons from some of the greatest minds in the business world as well as from my own spectacular failures. But one thing I have never done is quit. And that is lesson one on how to become an entrepreneur.

What People Are Wrong About Entrepreneurship

When I talk to people about entrepreneurship and how to become an entrepreneur, there are some common misconceptions that always arise.

They are almost always based on stereotypes that have seeped into the culture over time. We see them in movies, television and even from entrepreneurs themselves. But like all stereotypes, they are overgeneralizations that don’t allow us to see the true, in depth picture of the entrepreneur. So, here are the most common myths I hear about entrepreneurs.

Are there “born” entrepreneurs?

It’s true that if you come from a long line of entrepreneurs (as I did), you are more likely to become one, but it’s not genetically inherited. It’s much more a function of having entrepreneurs as role models in your life. After all, colleges and universities have been teaching all kinds of people business skills and entrepreneurship for decades.

Now, that’s not to say that there are no “born into” advantages that can help with entrepreneurship. Money is a great example of this. If you were lucky enough to be born into a family with money, it will make entrepreneurship a much easier proposition. After all, funding is a major part of any start up.

That being said, most entrepreneurs were not born into money and still became successful. More on how to do that later.

Do they have a social life?

This one is pretty common and sometimes perpetuated by the entrepreneurs themselves. There can be kind of a machismo attached to the image of a workaholic. Someone who is single minded and all focused to the exclusion of other things.

While entrepreneurship does take a lot of time, effort and dedication, entrepreneurs by necessity, need to be social creatures. No one rises to the top without a wide network of friends and acquaintances.

Are they extreme risk takers?

There’s no getting around taking risks as an entrepreneur, however, successful entrepreneurs are experts at taking calculated risks — carefully exploring all the options as well as the potential up and down sides before making a decision.

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The person who is willing to risk it all on a roll of the dice isn’t going to be in business very long.

Are they super smart?

In fact, only about 26% of entrepreneurs have a college degree.[1] While getting or having an education can’t (or shouldn’t) hurt, it is by no means a prerequisite for becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Do they raise money through bank loans and venture capital firms?

My hat’s off to you if you can pull that one off. Especially a bank loan, you’ll find that banks are more than willing to lend you money once you’ve become successful. But before then, you’re lucky to get a cup of coffee out of them.

No, most new entrepreneurs are raising funds either personally or through friends and family.[2]

Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

All you need is a great idea and some hard work. After all, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

Sorry, but that’s just not true.

There is a lot involved in launching a successful startup. Not everyone has the time, ability or inclination to do it. The truth is, successful entrepreneurs do share some similar traits and habits. We’ll go over those next.

Common Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

How much is a great new idea worth? Well that depends, if you’re Steve Jobs, it’s worth billions of dollars. If you’re Steve Jones, whose content working a nine to five job for 30 years, then it’s worth nothing.

The truth is that there are great ideas all around us all the time. But it’s the entrepreneur that gives the idea value.

So how do you know if you have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur? Here is a list of some common traits of successful entrepreneurs.

Having Passion

We hear this one a lot, but what does it really mean?

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For the entrepreneurs, passion is an overabundance of enthusiasm for their work. And we’re not talking about a passion for making money or getting rich. That should be a byproduct of passion.

The kind of passion we’re talking about is a complete belief in how the business, product or service adds value to the consumer. People with this kind of passion are willing to do whatever it takes to see that vision through.

Having Tenacity

Let’s face it, rarely do human endeavors go exactly as planned. This is especially true in a startup situation. No matter how good you are or how many times you’ve done it, things are going to come out of left field and smack you upside the head.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that it’s fun when something unexpected comes out of nowhere and turns your world upside down. But I will say that if you have the tenacity to work through the problem, it will serve as a lesson in resourcefulness for both you and your team.

Being Flexible

I’m putting this one right after tenacity because sometimes, solutions aren’t a matter of pushing through a problem but going around it.

Back in the 1930’s, having wallpaper was the “in” thing. The problem was that it literally was paper. When it got dirty, cleaning it with water and other household products quickly soaked and degraded the paper. The solution was to use a clay like substance to clean the wallpaper without getting it wet. Then in the 1950’s, preschool children in Cincinnati started using this same clay to make Christmas decorations. Pretty soon, it was repackaged into Play-Doh.[3]

The most successful entrepreneurs are flexible enough to change direction when they need to.

Having Confidence

As a startup entrepreneur, it’s extremely important that you exude confidence in your business, product/service and, especially in your own abilities. After all, you need to be inspiring to investors, employees and customers. No one is inspired to invest, follow or buy from someone who isn’t confident.

Arrogance, on the other hand, can be just as detrimental to your business as lack of confidence. For investors, arrogance is a warning sign that you won’t listen to their input or advice. For employees, it can set up a rigid autocratic management style that stifles creativity. And for customers, it can signal a lack of appreciation for their business.

In short, confidence is a must and arrogance is a no no.

Being a Motivated Self-Starter

I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who wasn’t a highly motivated self-starter. Now part of that comes from the passion they have for their business. They really enjoy what they do and can’t wait for Monday to roll around so that they can start again.

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But, another part of that is discipline. They tend to approach everything in life with discipline. Work is the obvious example, but even leisure activities are an exercise in discipline. For example, they promised their spouse that they would get some yard work done, but their kid has a game. Their answer is not to skip either one, it’s to schedule both activities into the day.

Being a Calculated Risk Taker

We talked a little bit about this earlier, and the word “calculated” is very important here. We’ve all heard the saying that “With great risk comes great reward”. But too many people confuse “great risk” with “foolish risk”.

A straightforward way to think about this is buying 100,000 lottery tickets. It certainly fits the criteria of a great reward coming from a great risk. But is it a smart (calculated) risk? If you’re intelligent enough to be reading this article, you know the answer.

So, here’s how an entrepreneur thinks about this situation. Instead of buying 100,000 lottery tickets, how about taking that money, use 50% as a down payment on a property that needs a little fix-up; and use the other half to fix it up and then sell it for a $50,000 profit? Now that is a calculated risk.

Practical Steps to Become an Entrepreneur

When counseling people on how to become an entrepreneur, I encourage them to take an honest assessment of themselves. This is always much harder than people think.

As humans, we are notoriously bad at self-assessment. We tend to overestimate our skills and abilities. That’s why almost everyone thinks that they are an above average driver.[4]

Even so, if you are considering life as an entrepreneur, it’s important to be as honest as possible when doing these self-assessments. Once you have a clear idea of your strengths and weakness, you can use these tips to get started.

1. Develop Your Idea

It doesn’t have to be a totally unique or groundbreaking idea in order to be a successful one. The popular rideshare company Lyft was started three years after the introduction of Uber. They took on the business model of Uber and just tweaked it a little.

Just because there is competition in a field doesn’t mean that you can’t be very successful too. But this is why developing your idea is so important.

Go ahead and use the business model of the most successful competitor but make it your own by identifying shortcomings and weaknesses that you can exploit for your own success.

2. Research, Research, Research

Research the industry and get to know the players, trade associations and conventions. Research the products and services involved. It’s not uncommon that the most profitable part of a business isn’t the “main” product, but an ancillary add-on product.

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For example, it’s not uncommon for a restaurant to break even on the food and only make money on the drinks. The reason they can offer a plate full of food for $5.00 is really the $2.00 Coke or $5.00 glass of wine you order with it.

Finally, research the customer. There is literally no way you can understand your customer too much. Things like average age, sex, buying habits, interests, attitudes about health, wealth, social media and status are all helpful in your targeting and marketing efforts.

3. Create a Formal Business Plan

This step is often overlooked and shouldn’t be. As a one or two-person show, you can probably get along fine without one. But once you start hiring employees, having a formal business plan is essential.

Unfortunately, if you don’t put in in place right away, by the time you need it, you’ll be too busy to create one. It’s always smart to do it up front.

4. Build Your Network

No one can build a successful business on their own. You’ll need investors, attorneys, accountants, bankers as well as vendors, industry contacts, employees and a whole host of others.

So, start attending trade shows, conventions as well as joining trade association and online groups. These are all great resources for you.

5. Test Your Ideas

Start small, there’s no way you can predict every possible problem or issue that will arise. You’ll find it’s much easier to address these issues if they’re limited to a few test markets as opposed to a global rollout.

6. Turn Early Customers into Fans

Another advantage of starting out on a small scale is that you can develop more personal relationships with customers. Make sure to provide a great experience for theses first customers to build up the most effective advertising there is — word of mouth.

7. Raise Capital

At this point, you should have a proven business model with customers, cash flow and a plan for expansion. You can now start to raise money through investors, venture capitalist and banks.

8. Scale Your Business

Take the money raised and use it to scale the business for maximum returns for you, your employees, investors and early backer.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, there has never been a better time in our history to become an entrepreneur. The old barriers to entry, access to large amounts of capital, expensive professional services like legal and accounting as well as staffing issues can all be overcome thanks to the internet. There are people all over offering these services as freelancers and at discounted rates.

If you truly have a good idea that you are committed to, then really the only thing stopping you from joining the ranks of entrepreneurs is you.

More About Entrepreneurship

Featured photo credit: Humphrey Muleba via unsplash.com

Reference

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

Knowledge is essential to become successful in life, your career and your business. Without learning new concepts and becoming proficient in our craft, we cannot excel in our chosen careers or archive knowledge to pass down to the next generation.

But content comes in various forms, and because how we learn influences how much we know, we need to talk about learning styles. This article will focus on how to utilize visual learning to boost your career or business.

The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style

Knowing your learning style enables you to process new information to the best of your ability. Not only does it reduce your learning curve, you’re able to communicate these same concepts to others effectively.

But it all starts when you’re able to first identify the best way you learn.

As a college student, I soon figured out that taking online courses without visual aids or having an instructor in front of me led to poor retention of concepts.

Sure, I got good grades and performed excellently in my online exams. However. I discovered that I couldn’t maintain this performance level because I forgot 80 percent of the course content by the end of the semester.

There are several types of learning styles known to mankind. To give an idea of how visual learning stacks up against other learning styles, here’s a brief mention of some of the different types of learning styles we have.

The four most popular types of learning styles are:

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  • Visual learning style (what this article talks about).
  • Aural or auditory learning style (learning by listening to information presented).
  • Verbal or linguistic learning style (learning that involves speech and writing).
  • Tactile learning style (learning by touching and doing)

But for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on using visual learning to boost your career or business.

How to Know If You’re a Visual Learner?

When it comes to boosting your career, business (or education), a visual learner is one who would most definitely choose shapes, images, symbols, or reading over auditory messages.

I’m talking about preferring to read an actual map when navigating to a new place over listening to verbal directions. I’m talking about discovering that you actually have trouble remembering what your manager said at the meeting because there were no graphs or illustrations to support the points raised.

Most people who struggle with learning probably aren’t leveraging their best learning styles. The earlier you identify how your learning style can boost your success, the less struggle you will encounter with processing new information throughout your career.

However, visual learning in particular CAN 10x your career or business whether it is your preferred learning style or not. And here’s why:

Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that the brain retains more information with the help of visual aids. In other words, images are directly processed by our long-term memory which helps us store information for longer periods of time.[1]

While some lessons can be performed orally, several concepts can only make sense if you have an image with an explanation of sequences (i.e learning about the human DNA).

Visual learning does use a different part of the brain and visual cues are processed by the part of the brain known as the occipital lobe.

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By engaging more parts of the brain during learning, you’re able to have a fuller understanding of concepts and facilitate better interaction with your immediate environment.

How to Use Visual Learning for Success

Here’re 4 ways to use visual learning to boost your career or business:

1. Bring back the to-do list. Then add shapes and colors to boost productivity.

We live in an age where computers have taken over virtually every aspect of productivity and most human functions. But written lists are making a comeback, and with an endless number of important tasks to complete, having a to-do list of tasks in order of importance can improve your productivity.

While coming up with a list is initially challenging, adding colors and shapes to written lists that you personally write and manage gives you an extra layer of assurance and boosts aids recall so that you actually get stuff done.

I have tried this technique in my work as a registered nurse and discovered that adding shapes and colors to to-do lists helps me delegate tasks, recognize where more work is needed, and makes it easy to cross off completed tasks at the end of the day.

2. Add graphs, charts and symbols to your reports.

Yes, it seems like more work cut out for you. However, graphs enable you monitor the heartbeat of your business.

Graphs and charts help you trend your finances, budget, and pretty much any data overtime. With the help of free and premium software available on the market, it has become easier to take plain data and in a matter of seconds, have relevant information displayed in different shapes and images.

As an entrepreneur, you can make predictions and allocate funds wisely when you’re able to see whether your efforts are rewarded. You can use colors and charts to delegate actions to members of your team and track performance at the same time.

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And when broken down into monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual goals, graphs and charts communicate what ordinary text cannot.

3. Effectively brainstorm with mind-mapping.

Mind-mapping is not new but I don’t think it’s been talked about as often as we do to-do lists.

With mind mapping, you’re organizing information accurately and drawing relationships between concepts and pieces from a whole.

Think of a mind map as a tree with several branches. For example, the tree can symbolize healthcare while each branch stands for nursing, medicine, laboratory science, and so on. When you look at nursing, you can further branch out into types of nursing; pediatric, women’s health, critical care, and so on.

It’s an interesting relationship; the more ideas you’re able to come up with for your chosen subject, the deeper you get and the stronger the association.

Mind maps really show you relationships between subjects and topics, and simplifies processes that might seem complicated at first glance. In a way, it is like a graphical representation of facts presented in a simple, visual format.

Mind mapping isn’t only limited to career professionals; business owners can benefit from mind mapping by organizing their online learning activities and breaking down complex tasks into simple actions so that you can accurately measure productivity.

4. Add video streaming to meetings.

What if you could double the productivity of your team members by video streaming your meetings or adding flash animation to your presentation at the same time?

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When you offer video as an alternative method of processing information to colleagues, there is a greater chance of retaining information because we recreate these stories into images in our minds.

For organizations that hold virtual meetings, it can also be an effective way to enhance performance during if people can see their colleagues in addition to flash animation or whatever form of video is provided during the meeting.

Is Visual Learning Better Than Other Learning Styles?

No, that is not the point. The goal here is to supplement your existing dominant learning style with visual learning so that you can experience a significant boost in how you process and use everyday information.

You might discover that understanding scientific concepts are much easier after incorporating visual learning or that you’re able to understand your organization’s value when projected on a visual screen with charts and graphs.

The overall goal is to always be learning and to continue to leverage visual learning style in your career and business.

More About Learning Styles

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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